Russia and the US have stockpiles 6375 and 5800 nuclear warheads respectively as per SIPRI

Senior Researcher in the SIPRI Nuclear Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme Dr Petr Topychkanov believes that to achieve a nuclear free world requires political will of the international community.

In an exclusive interview with India News Network, Dr Topychkanov said, “Following the example of Russia, ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), banning nuclear testing, other countries can join this treaty as well. Those countries that want to highlight the humanitarian aspect of nuclear disarmament and support more ambitious goals could join the Treaty of Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) making the nukes illegal. There are many other ways. It's mostly a matter of political will.”

In a recent bilateral summit between the Presidents of Russia and the US, it was noted that both sides will continue to work on the recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifying their commitment to nuclear arms control.

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague and after ratification,entered into force on 5 February 2011. It is expected to last until 5 February 2026, having been extended in 2021.

“The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” read a joint statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the US President Joe Biden.

“Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures,” the joint statement said.

Speaking about the same, Dr Topychkanov said, “The US-Russian decision to extend the New START Treaty for five years created a time framework to negotiate the future of nuclear arms control. The joint statement by presidents Biden and Putin in Geneva demonstrated their political will to explore this opportunity with the re-establishment of the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue. We need to wait for more concrete outcomes of the efforts of these two countries in the area of nuclear arms control.”

However, Dr Topychkanov revealed that according to the latest assessment by SIPRI, the total arsenals of Russia and the United States are 6375 and 5800 nuclear warheads respectively. Still, not all these warheads are ready to be used in the case of nuclear escalation, he said.

“According to these assessments, Russia and the US operationally deployed 1625 and 1800 warheads correspondingly. Even these numbers are more than enough to change the ecosystem life on the Earth forever. In addition to these weapons, these countries introduce new technologies into strategic armaments, such as laser beams, autonomy, and artificial intelligence. We still have to understand how these developments will affect military affairs,” he said.

The Russian researcher also noted that the extension of the New START Treaty is also important in terms of the bilateral relations between Russia and the US.

“Russia is at the stage of modernization of its arsenal meaning that 80 percent of the Russian arsenal are modernized. In the same way, the United States is in the beginning of modernizing its nuclear arsenal. And also the US and Russia actively develop strategic weapon space capability. In this context, they need some level of predictability between them to avoid destabilization of the weapons and development of the relationship. This will particularly help the United States to protect its allies in Europe,” he said.

While countries continue to ramp up efforts to follow a no-nuclear weapon use policy, China still continues to increase stockpiles of its nuclear weapons. It is feared that China’s expansionist design may use the threat of nuclear weapons to deter its adversaries.

On the same, Dr Topychkanov said, “So far, China declares the no-first-use policy, which means that the nuclear arsenal continues to play deterrence and defence roles. At this stage, it's hard to project a specific role for China's nuclear weapons in its foreign policy centred around the Belt and Road initiative. So far, China's actions in the disputed territories remain conventional.”